2020 Accredited Online Speech Pathology Degrees & Programs
Speech pathology is the treatment of speech disorders and language problems in children and adults. Graduates of online programs will gain an understanding of speech, language, hearing, and cognition in communication.
For speech pathology clinicians with graduate degrees, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 25% increase in demand. There are also career opportunities available to graduates who’ve earned certificates and bachelor’s degrees.
Prospective distance learning students should enroll in online speech pathology programs that have been accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA). Students should also be aware that speech pathologists have professional certification and licensure requirements, which vary by state.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Speech Pathology Degrees
Careers in Speech Pathology
Graduates with online degrees in speech pathology may find themselves working in private practice, healthcare facilities, and educational environments. Speech pathology clinicians work with both adults and children to help treat a wide range of communicative disorders. On a daily basis, they will evaluate and diagnose patients with speech disorders or swallowing issues, and then work with them through counseling, activities, and other treatments to help improve their speech.
Other tasks that a professional may encounter include conducting research to establish new and effective treatments, managing a private practice, researching human behavioral patterns to better understand the communication process, and working with employees to improve overall communication with clients. Individuals with a degree in speech pathology might pursue any of these three careers.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work with children and adults to diagnose and overcome communication and speech disorders or difficulties swallowing food and drinks. These may include stuttering, social or cognitive communication disorders, and issues with pitch or tone of voice. Speech-language pathologists work with patients and their families to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Audiologists are concerned with problems and conditions related to the inner ear. They may see patients struggling with hearing difficulty, balance issues caused by the inner ear, or conditions such as tinnitus. Audiologists use a number of tools to diagnose and treat patients, such as hearing aids, audiometers, and cochlear implants.
Occupational therapists treat patients with a number of conditions and injuries, working with them to overcome difficulties participating in daily activities. The scope of their practice is quite broad, ranging from patients who have cerebral palsy to damage from a stroke. They treat people of all ages through rehabilitation, mental health treatment, and by providing tools and support for family members and caregivers.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Speech Pathology Degree
Before enrolling in an online degree program, students should verify that their school is accredited. Accreditation helps to ensure that the quality of education received at a particular institution meets national standards. Accrediting organizations require that approved institutions participate in rigorous reviews and recertification to maintain accreditation.
In addition to the academic benefits of attending an accredited institution, there are also financial benefits; only students who attend accredited schools are eligible for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. Furthermore, those planning to transfer schools or programs should note that most credits are only transferable if they were earned at an accredited school. Before choosing an online degree plan, students should conduct in-depth research in their field of choice to determine what kind of credentials employers within the industry look for.
Programmatic accreditation is also important when looking for a speech pathology degree program. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) advises prospective speech-language pathology students to look for schools accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Students are only eligible to apply for ASHA’s nationally-recognized CCC-SLP and CCC-A certifications if they have graduated from a CAA-accredited program.
The CAA is the main accrediting body for speech pathology and audiology programs. The Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE) also accredits audiology programs. There are two specialized accrediting agencies that assess occupational therapy programs, the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
Each specialized accrediting organization examines a variety of areas within academic programs to assess its quality and effectiveness. These areas include administrative structure, faculty, academic curriculum, student assessment, and program resources. Education programs seek accreditation through these organizations on a voluntary basis. Programs are then required to file annual reports showcasing continued compliance.
Online Speech Pathology Degree Overview & Career Information
Online speech pathology degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Online bachelor's degrees in the field can provide a solid educational foundation for students interested in becoming speech pathologists. However, entry-level positions require at least a master's degree. An online graduate degree program, or SLP program, typically requires about 36 credit hours and takes around two years of full-time study to complete. An online certificate degree is also available for aspiring speech pathologist assistants. Certificates can generally be earned with 24 units of coursework and may also include clinical training hours.
Online Associate Degrees in Speech Pathology
Speech-language pathology (SLP), often referred to as speech pathology, is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders and other language, voice, and swallowing issues that may occur in both children and adults. SLP is considered an allied health profession, as speech pathologists are involved in the identification, treatment, and prevention of medical conditions. An online associate degree prepares students to become speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs), who work under the supervision of licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
Distance learning coursework in SLP programs includes the study of all physiological systems involved in hearing, speaking, articulation, and language comprehension. An online associate in speech pathology program will include core curriculum classes as well as major classes that focus on topics such as human communication and public speaking. Students may also take elective courses in audiology, linguistics, and American Sign Language (ASL). These SLP programs can be found at technical colleges, community colleges, and four-year institutions. A full-time online associate degree usually takes two years to complete. Admission requirements typically include a high school diploma and transcripts.
After earning an online associate degree in speech pathology, graduates may be required to obtain licensure or certification or become registered before working as an SLPA. In addition, they may be required to complete a certain amount of continuing education credit hours every year to maintain their SLPA credentials. These requirements will vary by state.
SLPAs are responsible for a variety of tasks, such as cleaning and preparing equipment, maintaining medical records, documentation, and standard therapeutic activities. Graduates may also choose to continue their education by pursuing a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in the field.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Speech Pathology
A career in speech pathology requires professional training to practice. Individuals interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist typically need a graduate degree and SLP certification. To prepare for graduate programs, individuals can first explore online bachelor’s programs in the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD).
Online bachelor’s programs in CSD include coursework in liberal arts and sciences as well as courses related to speech, language, and hearing. Programs normally require at least 30 credit hours of major coursework focused on language development, speech and language disorders, anatomy, physiology, and diagnostic procedures. In addition, most online programs require supervised clinical placements that involve observing diagnostic and treatment sessions with professional speech pathologists.
With full-time study, online bachelor's degrees in communication sciences and disorders usually take four years to complete. Interested individuals can generally find these distance learning programs at large public institutions of higher education. Applicants will need a high school diploma or GED as well as ACT or SAT test scores. Admission to a bachelor’s program in CSD is competitive. Some programs do not admit students directly to the bachelor’s program and require at least a 3.0 college GPA through their first two years of general study. Because degrees in communication sciences and disorders are pre-professional and prepare students for graduate study, students may need to maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate and typically need a GPA of 3.75 or better to continue their professional development in graduate programs.
Online Master's Degrees in Speech Pathology
Speech-language pathologists may provide treatment or therapy for a wide range of speech disorders. Some are classified as cognitive communication disorders and may be rooted in developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, while others (such as lisps) are classified as articulation disorders. SLPs also provide therapy and guidance for patients with vocal damage (e.g., vocal nodules) or other conditions, such as aphasia caused by a stroke or brain injury.
Prospective speech pathologists will need a graduate degree to practice in the field. There are multiple schools offering online speech pathology master's programs. Some graduate SLP programs lead to a Master of Science degree, while others result in a Master of Arts. To learn more about online master's programs in speech pathology, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best graduate programs.
Online Certificates in Speech Pathology
Online speech language pathology certificates are primarily geared toward those already holding a bachelor's degree to provide them with further education and preparation for a career in the field. Some certificates enable students to practice speech-language therapy as assistants alongside the supervision of certified speech pathologists. After completing one of these online programs, students may go on to work as assistants to speech pathologists in various settings—typically in schools, clinics, and rehabilitation agencies.
Whether studying full-time or part-time, distance learning students in online speech pathology certificate programs must usually complete 24 credit hours of core coursework. Additional hours of hands-on training may also be required. Required classes for online certificates often include those in speech and language development, speech and language disorders in children, speech and language disorders in adults, competencies and strategies, aural rehabilitation, and phonetics. In order to be eligible for admission, applicants must have previously earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and turn in all official transcripts. A letter of intent or a personal statement may also be required.
Five Speech Pathology Certifications to Advance Your Career
While licensure is required to work in each of these fields, earning specialized certifications can benefit professionals in many ways. Certification tells employers, professionals, and clients that a practitioner has the professional training and experience to provide quality care. Some certifications also require practitioners to continue their education, ensuring they are up to date on best practices and scientific research in their field.
Speech pathologists and audiologists can earn a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology. The certification is offered through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Once earned, this certification signals professional credibility and can provide increased career opportunities. Some special certifications require professionals to hold a CCC in order to apply for further credentials.
Speech-language pathologists can earn a board certification specializing in child language, which focuses on language, speech production, and related disorders in children and adolescents. This certification is beneficial for professionals who intend to work with young patients. Families may choose to select practitioners with this certification when seeking treatment for children and young adults up to age 21.
Board certification in fluency is an option for speech pathologists who develop and demonstrate expertise in treating fluency disorders with patients of all ages. The most common fluency disorder is stuttering. Professionals who hold this certification are uniquely prepared to treat patients with fluency disorders in private practices and schools, among other settings.
The American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders offers certification to speech therapists who intend to work with patients experiencing dysphagia, a difficulty or inability to swallow. Certification indicates proficiency and experience in assessing and treating dysphagia in the mouth, throat, and esophagus. This certification can lead to professional recognition and specialized career development.
Occupational therapists can earn specialized certifications through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Options include certifications in gerontology, mental health, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation. Each of these certifications requires different professional development criteria and can advance careers in specific areas.
Speech Pathology Licensure
It is important to note that certification is different from licensure. While certification is often preferred for practicing speech pathology and can benefit practitioners in any specialized field, licensure is required in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. Requirements can vary by state, so prospective students should be aware of their local requirements for licensure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Speech Pathology Degrees
How long is a Speech Pathology degree?
Individuals interested in speech pathology can pursue associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree programs. The time it will take to earn any of these degrees depends on the degree level and whether a student attends school full-time or part-time. On average, it will take between two and six years. Some online SLP programs require clinical practicums or clinical placements. Degrees, however, are not the only option for students who want a career in speech pathology. Becoming a speech-language pathology assistant requires only a certificate.
What are the pros and cons of being a speech pathologist?
Due to an aging U.S. population and medical advancements that have improved the survival rate from traumatic injuries among both adults and children, there is a growing need for more speech pathologists. This makes job outlook a significant pro for students interested in speech-language pathology. Other benefits include making a difference in the lives of others, nationwide job opportunities, a flexible schedule in some employment settings, and the ability to provide prolonged care to patients. Some potential drawbacks for clinicians include caseload requirements, a pay ceiling, burnout, and the inability to transition out of speech pathology easily.
What is the salary for a speech pathologist?
As of 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the median salary for a speech pathologist at $79,120. The median pay per hour was $34.08. The BLS also projects the need for speech-language pathologists to grow 25% through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. ONET Online reports that the median salary for speech-language pathology assistants is $38,460, and that job opportunities for SLPAs are expected to increase by 7% to 10% over the next decade.
What is the difference between a speech therapist and speech pathologist?
There is no difference between a speech therapist and speech pathologist. The term speech therapist is no longer used because professional clinicians prefer to be called speech-language pathologists (SLPs). An SLP is trained to assess and treat individuals with speech disorders, communication challenges, or people with difficulties swallowing food and drink.